Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shadows: An Inquiry Begins

This morning during our play and inquiry time, many of the children chose to play outside. I noticed one girl up on the hill, dancing slowly and concentrating carefully. It soon became clear that she was watching the movements of her shadow, so long and clear in the bright morning sun. I quickly shot a brief video of her, along with a boy who had joined her to squirt water from a bottle. His shadowed wiggled and shifted with his enjoyment of his play, but did not draw his attention.

As soon as the children returned to the classroom I shared the video on our screen. I asked them what they thought M was doing. "dancing", "karate kicks", "ballet", and "wiggling" were some of their responses. I asked them to watch the video again, this time noticing what was happening around the girl and boy.

Right away someone called out, "Shadows!", so we watched the video one more time with the shadows as a focus. The children noticed how the shadow was long, dark, and imitated the movements of the students.

We generated a list of their thoughts and ideas about shadows:
  • Shadows are bigger than we are
  • Sometimes they go away when the clouds come
  • The clouds block the sun and it has to be half clouds and half sun. 
  • My shadow does whatever I'm doing. It's like a video outside but it's not on a screen.
  • The sun is very bright and the back of you reflects the sun.
  • It makes the same shape as you.
  • The sun shines down on your back but not in front of you so that's why your shadow is in front of you.
  • There are all different shapes of shadows.
  • When you're driving, the car has a shadow too. When I stuck my hand out of the car I saw its shadow!
  • The sun shines on your belly and the shadow is on your back.
We explored our knowledge of shadows by using the bright sunlight that pours into our classroom! Someone just donated a box of dinosaurs to our class so we used these to create shadows, and traced them. This was challenging because the children had to work around their art without blocking the sunlight!

When they finished, they filled their shapes with black paint. Some chose to cut their shapes out. Later in the day we went outside and two of the children noticed that their shadows were holding hands! We observed that our shadows looked smaller than the one from this morning had. Tomorrow I think we'll trace our shadows through the day to make some conclusions about how they change according to the sun's position in the sky.

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